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Gear Up Your Small Business for E-tailing

A new program helps small-business owners make use of e-tailing.

Online retail capacity, or e-tailing, remains a rapidly growing trend.

“It is important for all small businesses to be a part of that effort,” says Glenn Muske, the North Dakota State University Extension Service’s rural and agribusiness enterprise development specialist. “More and more, customers are looking for 24/7 access or ‘always-on’ capacity to shop, buy, and receive customer support and service.”

With this changing landscape for retailers, the NDSU and University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension Services teamed up to provide rural and small-business owners with an educational program, “eTailing: Taking Charge of Your Online Presence,” at http://go.unl.edu/etailing.

This new self-help program is designed to help business owners understand e-tailing and make plans to make it a part of their effort to reach existing customers as well as expand their reach for new customers.

“It is important for business owners to understand two things: First, e-tailing is not an option,” says Connie Hancock, UNL Extension educator.

“Second, e-tailing includes more than selling,” she continues. “It means offering customer support and service, providing store information, developing another channel for meaningful customer communication, and ensuring safety and security in this effort. Yet small business owners can, to a degree, pick and choose which of these parts they wish to offer.”

The eTailing curriculum focuses on:

  • Laying the groundwork for an e-tailing effort, including planning what the website will look like
  • Understanding how e-tailing will be your online front door and how it needs to be appealing and informative
  • Developing effective content
  • Helping an owner understand that a website represents only one potential part of the business’s online presence

“The goal of the program is to help the business owners effectively adopt online e-commerce as part of their business model,” says Jay Jenkins, UNL Extension educator. “If successful in doing so, the business owner will not only better serve his or her existing customers but open up the possibility of entirely new markets.”

Learning from others who use e-tailing successfully makes this program unique and especially helpful to the business owner. Several business owners were interviewed, and clips of their tips and comments are included.

“E-tailing is about responding to customer shopping habits,” UNL Extension educator Dennis Kahl says. “The use of some form of online shopping grows each year, and there is nothing in sight that says this trend will decrease.

“The growth is found in all demographic categories, making it important that business owners small and large, rural and urban, join in,” he adds.

A solid e-tailing effort will allow businesses always to be “on.” This program focuses on helping the owner develop that solid effort.

The program was made possible through the support of NDSU and UNL Extension, and funding from the Southern Rural Development Center’s National eCommerce Initiative.

For more ideas and assistance on e-tailing or e-commerce for your small business, contact your local Extension Service office or go to NDSU’s Small Business Support website at http://www.ag.ndsu.edu/smallbusiness or UNL Extension’s website at http://eship.unl.edu.

NDSU Agriculture Communication - Jan. 7, 2014

Source:Glenn Muske, (701) 328-9718, glenn.muske@ndsu.edu
Editor:Ellen Crawford, (701) 231-5391, ellen.crawford@ndsu.edu
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